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Hungary: For coin and country

Regional Hungarian funds follow West's lead

What producer west of Hungary (or perhaps neighboring Croatia) has ever heard of Pecs? Or Southern Transdanubia, for that matter?

But ask any savvy filmmaker in the former Eastern Bloc, and you’re likely to get a knowing nod. They’re names well worth noting for those following where coin is in the region.

Along with the newly minted North Hungary regional film fund, the Transdanubia, in the southern province of Pecs, is part of a new wave of resources to come online in this country’s growing production arsenal. Similar funds in the districts of Gyor, Debrecen and Miskolc position Hungary, along with Poland and Serbia, as the Eastern European countries most committed to a form of development tried and proven in Western Europe.

“Regional funds have been used as a growth engine,” explains Charlotte Appelgren, topper at Cineregio.org, a Denmark-based network of 32 regional film funds from 12 European Union nations plus Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.

That doesn’t mean they’re always easy to access for non-locals, however. “Regional funds are different from tax rebate money,” she cautions; they vary greatly in structure, rules, transparency, the amount of money being offered and other factors.

And, just as with such funds in the United States, “It’s easier if you’re working with a local company,” Appelgren says.

That’s because the orgs involved are not committed solely to being magnets for international shoots. “They contribute to social cohesion and cultural enrichment,” she says, and are often about building up a healthy film sector in whatever area has set them up.

For those willing to consider co-productions, however, such funds are an increasingly important part of the landscape in emerging countries of Europe. It’s a long-term investment, says Oliver Rittweger of the Mitteldeutsche Media Fund, a powerful regional coin source for Germany’s Saxony province. “Like it happened here in Germany, it will take a few years,” he says.

But if regional funds are a measure of a country’s commitment to production growth, Hungary’s credentials are quickly being established.

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